Saturday, October 30, 2004

Finally finshed

Today my partner and I finally finished the big cabling job we've been working on for one of my clients every weekend this month. The only things left to do today was punch down a couple jacks near a new piece of equipment, install a switch and a couple of hubs, and patch all the connections through from the patch panel to the core switch. I also installed their email and file server in their new locations.

Afterwards we grabbed lunch and he installed a new doorbell for me and fixed a fouled up flourescent light in my kitchen. Doing anything with AC power gives me the heebie-jeebies. It's good to be friends with an electrician. :-)

Friday, October 29, 2004

It's alive!

Finally, Bagend has arisen from the grave. I pulled it out of the crawlspace last night (no fun, there) and since I'd covered it in a Hefty bag, it actually wasn't all full of spiderwebs.

First order of business was to gut the case. Out came the power supply. Out came the motherboard tray. I decided to keep the 3Com NIC to see if it was still good, which turned out to be fortunate. I also kept the 32x CD-ROM drive, although I pulled it out of the case. There was no floppy to salvage, it having already been removed. Aside from the case itself, the only parts I reused were the 3Com NIC and the case fan. The mobo, RAM, CPU and old PS went into the trash.

Putting all the new components together took about an hour since I was taking it slow. Aside from the components obtained from NewEgg, I also installed a 52x CD-ROM drive which came out of my MIL's PC when I installed a CD-RW drive for her earlier this year. So, Bagend has two optical drives but no floppy drive. (I need to do something about that hole in the front of the case.)

It didn't boot up on my first try. After some head scratching, I realized that I'd connected the power switch to the mobo headers one pin off. Once I moved the connector over the box fired right up.

I did a little bit of tweaking in the BIOS, then rebooted, popped in the SUSE 9.0 Professional DVD, and commenced the install.

Installing SUSE from DVD beats the pants off using CDs. Instead of periodic disc swapping, once you're ready to actually install everything you click OK and it goes. I didn't time it but it took about a half hour to finish the installation. I didn't do a full-boat install but I did add a good amount of stuff to SUSE's default selection of software. WTH, I've got the disk space.

Speaking of which, I partitioned the drive with 512 MB swap, 30 GB for /, and the remained as /home. On a desktop or laptop I don't see the need for fancy partitioning schemes, but having /home on its own partion facilitates backups and allows you to reformat /, but leave your data instact, if you do an upgrade. I used SUSE's default filesystem -- ReiserFS.

It's a good thing that I didn't chuck the old 3Com NIC. For some reason during the install, SUSE didn't recognize my new mobo's onboard Realtek-based NIC. Without the old NIC I wouldn't have got the box online.

By the time I was finished it was around 2200, my normal weeknight bedtime. I didn't want to go to sleep just yet, so I putzed around by installing the latest releases of Firebird and Thunderbird. Since I'm no longer using Mozilla Composer regularly, I may stick with the individual apps, rather than the Mozilla suite.

Tonight I'm going to try to fine tune the X config and restore all my data. I'm also going to see if I can get the onboard NIC working, as I'd like to take out the 3Com for use as a spare. Aside from the NIC issue I'm pleased with the box, which is a heckuva lot faster than Gondor was with the same OS.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

No Jury Duty

I checked Montgomery County's website for jury duty, and I don't have to report to the court house tomorrow. I would like to serve on a jury, but with my background as an attorney I doubt I would get past voire dire. So, I'm glad that I don't have to waste my time by showing up and then being told to go home.

The Secret Weapon

This is one of the best blog entries I've read in quite some time.

Well, for that matter the whole method and practice of Governance in the United States is a mystery to the people of the world. I get quiet exasperated trying to explain "separation of powers', 'federal vs. state powers' and 'constitutional law'. The idea that our system of government is designed to ensure that it doesnt work very well, is simply beyond them. When I explain that the "Bill Of Rights" does not in fact give you any rights, but actually limits the powers of government, that all rights are believed to be yours to begin with and that most of what the constitution does is limit, form and shape government, and that it does not actually say in any explicit language " you have this right or that one". It does tell every one "government can go this far and no further" on a number of subjects.

It gets better. Read the rest here.

WLAN Update

I got my client's WLAN up and running with WEP, but only the 64-bit flavor.

We first disabled Windows Wireless Zero Configuration and then tried 128-bit WEP. No joy. Her PC could associate with the WAP as before, but not pull an IP. We tried renewing the IP and disabling and reenabling the wireless NIC to no avail. It flat out would not talk to the network. So, as a last resort I we setup 64-bit WEP, she got an IP, and we verified Internet connectivity.

Very strange and incredibily annoying.

Still, between basic encryption and MAC filtering, IMO their LAN is reasonably secure.

Home Network Update

I got Rivendell swapped out for Gondor last night, after moving Judith's docs over to the newer PC. It didn't go completely smoothly, however.

Several of Judith's documents were created in MS Works 6.0, although she's been using Word for the past couple of years. I wanted her to have access to the old files in case she needs them, so I installed Works on Gondor. Big mistake.

Following the post-install reboot I discovered that Works was interfering with AVG Antivirus, preventing a core DLL from loading. This left the box without virus protection, an unacceptable state of affairs. So, I reinstalled AVG, which didn't fix it.

At this point I decided to remove Works. Judith no longer uses it and the older files hadn't been accessed in a couple of years, so if she ever does need them we can temporarily install Works, then use it to save the files in .doc format, and then wipe it off the box again. In the menatime, she's got 1.1.3, which should serve her needs well.

The Works-vs.-AVG fiasco is puzzling. Both programs peacefully coexisted on Rivendell, although under Windows 98SE. For some reason, they don't on XP. Go figure.

I never did get to start reviving Bagend last night. By the time I was done with Gondor is was about 2100 and I was pooped. I plan to work on it tonight though, especially since my NEC DVD burner and AMD Athlon CPU showed up yesterday.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

RSS in Thunderbird

I upgraded Thunderbird on my laptop to the latest version, 0.8. A new feature is a built-in RSS/XML site feed reader. It's pretty slick, although it's not totally intuitive to setup.

You first need to go and create a new account in Tbird, via Tools > Account Settings > Add New Account. Choose "RSS News and Blogs" as the account type. This will create the basic site feed reader account. You then need to go into the account properties and subscribe to the feeds by adding their URLs. You can find out a feed's URL usually by clicking on an "XML" or "RSS" icon on a page in your browser. Then paste the URL into the RSS reader subscription box.

Blogger uses Atomz, rather than RSS, but Tbird reads this kind of feed just fine. The URL to subscribe to this site is

I'll need to add a link to this in the sidebar.

Gondor reborn

I got XP Pro installed on Gondor last night, then added SP2, ran Windows Update, and even installed some apps before calling it a day. I'm going to see if I can switch Judith over to, so I installed that instead of MS Office. I still find it annoying that on that hardware, XP runs faster than KDE on SUSE. KDE has simply become bloated, although it remains my desktop environment of choice.

Since Judith doesn't use POP or IMAP for her email -- she's content with Yahoo! mail -- I installed Firefox rather than the full Mozilla suite. I also installed the Noia theme, which is pretty slick looking. This morning I upgraded Firefox on my work laptop to the latest version and installed the Crystalfox theme, which I like even better. It's quite KDEish. I may install it on Gondor later. (I'm using Firefox today at work since I can't get to my mail server -- see previous post -- and just need a browser.)

Tonight I'll swap out Rivendell for Gondor after I move Judith's files and bookmarks over. Then I can hopefully turn my attention to reviving Bagend. Even if my new CPU and DVD drive don't arrive, I can gut the case of the old, fried components, install the new poer supply, RAM, video card, and motherboard.

Linksys SPI

The implementation of stateful packet inspection on the Linksys BEFSR11 router I use at home leaves something to be desired. I turned it on last night, and discovered when I came into the office this morning that I can no longer login to remotely. After a bit of googling, I discovered that the main effect of enabling SPI on this box is to turn off port forwarding.

Crap. Linksys could have documented this.

Oh well, since hosts my personal email there's no real harm done in my case. Of course, this could be a big problem in a different environment. I'll disable SPI when I get home and watch as the flood of pent up spam crashes in.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Parts is parts

I got most of the parts that I ordered for my "new" PC from NewEgg today. The Athlon CPU and the NEC DVD+/-RW drive are still in transit, though. So, after unpacking the other components I installed the Netgear FS108 Ethernet switch, replacing my old 10 meg hub.

The Netgear switch is a nice little unit with a metal case and feels very solid. It uses a wall wart power supply which helps keeps down the size of the switch itself. One thing that impressed me is that unlike typical consumer grade networking equipment, this box has a connector on the back for a separate electrical ground.

After getting the new switch installed I finished backing up my data on Gondor. Last night, I'd made copies of my documents folder to my laptop. Tonight I added my dotfiles -- .kde, .gftp., and .mozilla. Then I burned the same files to a CD, so that I have two backups.

And so, Gondor is currently being reborn as a Windows XP machine for Judith. As I write this, the hard disk is almost finished being reformatted. I plan to get XP Pro installed tonight and maybe SP2. I'll load the apps she needs tomorrow, migrate over her data from Rivendell, and swap towers.


Slacktop -- my old Dell Latitude CPi P2/366 is now running Slackware-current, as the result of me running "swaret --upgrade -a" yesterday afternoon. I didn't have the chance to try it out before leaving the office yesterday, so I fired up the box early this morning.

I had to do some tweaking to get X to run. I issued "startx" and the XOrg server started to launch, but died with an error that it couldn't find the "keyboard" driver. I took a look in /etc/X11/xorg.conf-vesa and saw that the keyboard driver in that file was listed as "kbd," so I changed /etc/X11xorg.conf (the working config file) to match, and X worked.

The system upgrade included an updated to KDE 3.3.1, which I wanted to take a look at. It's very nice, although slow on this hardware.

Swaret isn't perfect but it's a pretty darn good tool for package management on Slackware. If you run Slack you should definitely give it a try.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Wireless LAN Headaches II

Well, I just got off the phone with the client for whom I installed the WLAN on Saturday. After dinking around in the WAP for a little while, I disabled WEP encryption. As soon as I did that and they reassociated with the WAP they were able to get online and to see each other's PCs in My Network Places.


MAC filtering is enabled on the WAP so their WLAN is not wide open, but I'd prefer to have multiple layers of security. I'm going to do some more research and then try 64 bit WEP and/or WPA. (WPA is supposed to be an improvement on WEP, although not much. I didn't enable it initially because I'm familiar with WEP.)

I have to wonder if this is some soft of stupid XP Home-ism.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Wireless networking headaches

This morning I setup a wireless LAN at a 3-person law firm in Delaware. Initial setup was pretty straightforward, but it's not what I consider to be fully functional. I could use some input here.

The network consists of three PCs, two eMachines boxes and one Dell, all running XP Home (they had these boxes before they called me). Each PC has a Netgear WG311T wireless NIC which was installed according to the manufacturer's directions. There is also a Netgear WG302 wireless access point. The intented use of the LAN is to share a cable modem connection and allow file and printer sharing among the three users.

The Ethernet interface of the WAP has the IP The first eMachines box is, the Dell is .11, and the second eMachines box is .12 The WAP and all three PCs are pointed to for their gateway, which will be installed Monday.

Each PC is able to associate with the WAP and signal strength is excellent. All PCs are setup in the same Windows workgroup. No firewalls are running. NetBIOS over TCP/IP is enabled.

I was able to login and configure the WAP by connecting my laptop to its Ethernet port.

  1. None of the PCs can ping each other or the WAP.
  2. The PCs cannot see each other in My Network Places, except that the Dell can see eMachines box #1, although not access its shared folders.
  3. With my laptop connected to the WAP's Ethernet port, I can ping the WAP but none of the other PCs. Nor can any of the other PCs ping my laptop.
  4. The wireless PCs cannot pull up the WAP's login page in a browser.
WTF? Will this not work until a hub/switch is connected to the WAP's Ethernet port?

Friday, October 22, 2004

Testing, testing

Over the course of this week I've been testing a new rev of firmware for our SMC 8013 gateways. These are the combination cable modem/router units that we use for our commercial customers. The updated firmware is supposed to fix some bugs found in earlier versions.

When we first testied on Tuesday and found that the DMZ feature was broken. There were a couple of other minor issues. So, back to SMC it went.

We got another rev yesterday afternoon and began testing once more. Things seemed to be going well. The problems we identified earlier this week were fixed. However, I discovered that the right kind of misconfiguration of the VPN termination feature can crash the box, with the only way to recover it is to use the factory reset button located on the back of the unit. Doing so returns the box to the default configuration. At this time we aren't enabling the VPN feature for most of our customers, although there are a few who are using it. So, we need to get it fixed before rolling it out.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

On second thought, I won't upgrade the laptop

I posted the other day about possibly upgrading my Compaq Presario 710US. Upon further reflection, I decide it made more sense to replace Gondor, the trusty P3/733 that I built in 2000, and which remains my desktop PC at home.

Gondor will wind up replacing Rivendell, an ancient P2/300, as Judith's PC. I bought Rivendell from ASL way back in May of 1998. It came as a dual boot system with Red Hat 5.1 and Windows NT4 Workstation. The only major changes I've made to it in that time are doubling the RAM to 256 MB, adding an SMC wireless NIC, and redoing it as a Win98SE box for Judith (she wanted to run something or other than wouldn't work on NT4 or W2K). Hardware-wise, it's been solid as a rock, but it's really long in the tooth. I can redo Gondor with XP and it'll be fine for Judith's use -- web, email, light word processing. She ought to be able to get at least two more years from it.

Replacing Gondor as my main box will be a resurrected Bagend. It was originally built in 1999 as a P3/450. After I decided to host mail for onsite, it became my mail and fileserver running e-Smith. Then, about two years ago, it got zapped in a power surge which blew the motherboard and who knows what else. I was able to shift the hard disk into a scavenged Compaq Deskpro, do a little reconfiguration, and get back up and running, and that's how it's been ever since. In the meantime, the rest of Bagend has been stuffed in my crawlspace.

I intend to pull Bagend out and strip out the motherboard and power supply. The floppy and CD-ROM drive may still be good, along with a case fan. Once it's gutted, the following components which I ordered tonight from Newegg are going in:
  • Asus A7N8X-X Socket-A motherboard.
  • AMD AthlonXP 2600+ "Barton" core CPU.
  • Antec SL400 power supply.
  • Asus Radeon 9200SE 128 MB video card.
  • NEC 8x Dual-Layer DVD+/-RW drive.
  • Maxtor 80 GB ATA-133 hard disk.
  • 512 MB of Crucial PC3200 DDR RAM (one stick).
The OS will be SUSE Linux Professional, 9.1 for now, to be upgraded to 9.2 when it comes out in November.

If for some reason Bagend's case is not usable, I'll gut Rivendell instead and use it.

This is far from a high end system but it'll be a huge improvement over what I've got now, and should last me several years. I mainly use my desktop for web, email, remote system administration, and light use of I should be able to run DOOM3 on it, though. :-)

While I was ordering the computer parts, I tacked on a Netgear FS108 8-port 10/100 switch to upgrade the core of my LAN. The LANMaster T12 10 meg hub I have is solid, but slow.

Now I know who to vote for. :-)

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Democrats are tolerant (?)

I work at a Bush campaign office in SE PA and the stealing and destruction of signs here is so rampant that at least 6 out of 10 people that walk in our office are there to complain about and replace stolen signs. One family member of a staffer that is in a local union reported that at their last meeting they were each given Kerry signs and required to bring back and equal number of Bush signs.
From a thread on

It sure would explain why I see relatively few signs in Montgomery Country, which is very Republican.

Sounds like the "climate of fear" that Instapundit has mentioned several times recently.

And people think W is stupid?

More words of wisdom from President Numbnuts:

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you the question about—this is going to cause some trouble with people—but as an historian now and studying the Revolutionary War as it was fought out in the South in those last years of the War, insurgency against a powerful British force, do you see any parallels between the fighting that we did on our side and the fighting that is going on in Iraq today?

CARTER: Well, one parallel is that the Revolutionary War, more than any other war up until recently, has been the most bloody war we‘ve fought. I think another parallel is that in some ways the Revolutionary War could have been avoided. It was an unnecessary war.

Had the British Parliament been a little more sensitive to the colonial‘s really legitimate complaints and requests the war could have been avoided completely, and of course now we would have been a free country now as is Canada and India and Australia, having gotten our independence in a nonviolent way.
Holy shit. WTF??? This is one of the most retarded things I've ever read. OF COURSE The Revolution would not have been necessary if Parliament and King George III had been more "sensitive" to the colonists' grievances. And if I was Catholic I could theoretically be the Pope.

Earth to Jimmy ... PARLIAMENT AND GEORGE III WEREN'T INTERESTED IN THE RIGHTS OF THE COLONISTS. As events really occurred (as opposed to Carter's fantasy), The Revolution was needed in order to protect the colonists' rights as Englishmen. The end result was that to protect those rights, it became...
necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them....
(Go read the whole Declaration of Independence here.)

As for "as free as Canada and India and Australia[?]" With all due respect to the residents of these countries, they all have far more socialist goverments than the US. By its very nature socialism is inimical to liberty. Socialist wealth redistribution schemes always require that the government take liberties from their subjects in order to accomplish their goals. Government power is the flip side of individual liberty. Nor do any of these countries have a Bill of Rights comparable with that of the US, which recognizes preexisting human rights not subject to the whims of society.

Finally, he's no historian if he thinks that The Revolution was our bloodiest conflict. It wasn't even close. Total number of American combat casualties in The Revolution was a bit less than 11,000. In the Civil War/War of Northern Aggression, Union combat casualties stood at about 635,000, plus about 335,000 for the CSA. In World War I we suffered around 320K casualties, with over one million in WW2. (Stats here.)

Mr. Carter, please go back to your peanut farm and STFU.

John Stewart on "Crossfire"

I'm not a John Stewart or "The Daily Show" fan, but Mr. Stewart's appearance on "Crossfire" was something else. There's a transcript here. He really ripped into "Crossfire" in particular, and the major media in general, about the disservice they do to America with the way they cover politics.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Busy, busy, busy

Pardon the lack of posting around here since Friday. I've been busy.

On Saturday my partner and I wrapped up the big network cabling job that I previously mentioned. It's a total of 17 LAN drops, 17 4-line telephone drops, 4 single phone line drops, and one run of some coax for CATV. One multiline phone and one Ethernet drop need to be terminated, but we need to wait until a large piece of equipment is delivered. My client will be moving into the new office on October 30th, and we may need to wait until then to complete those two lines.

Yesterday I stayed home and watched Amanda and Alexandra, while Judith went out to take a break. G-d bless her, I don't know how she does it every day after school with both little ones. I couldn't. By dinner time last night I was fried.

Speaking of last night, I watched part one of Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars on SciFi. Part two is on tonight. Farscape was definitely one of the best science fiction shows ever to appear on TV and it's a shame it got cancelled. It's cool that they went ahead and made a little mini-series. I'd like to see the show revived.

This morning I had a meeting to go over a couple of DNS-related things over in Moorestown. It was the first time I'd been in Moorestown since I transferred to my new job three months ago, and it was nice to see some of my former coworkers. While over there I also did some research in response to a request from my boss's boss, with respect to definitions and expected ratification dates for various 802.11 wireless networking standards. I bailed out of there at about 1445 to make sure I'd beat rush hour traffic on the PA Turnpike.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Maybe it's time to upgrade my laptop

I did a little looking around online and I think I can upgrade my Compaq Presario 710US, getting a noticeable performance boost without spending too much money. The box has a 1 GHz AMD Duron CPU, which is fast enough for my needs.

The first thing it needs is more RAM. It should cost me about $80 to get a 256 MB SODIMM from Kingston to bring the total system RAM up to 512 MB, which is the most the laptop will take. For about the same amount of money, I can get a new, larger 5400 RPM hard drive from NewEgg. The current drive is 20GB, which if I setup a dual boot system (XP and Linux), realistically means I have to split it into two 10 GB partitions. That's too small. If get even just a 40 GB 5400 RPM drive, not only will disk I/O dramatically improve, I can devote 20 GB to each OS. This in turn would allow me to rely on the box as my primary PC and redo Gondor for Judith. (Gondor has a 15 GB drive and I'm only using a bit more than half.)

I need to think on this.

Automating IE, Part 2

One of the other guys in my department, who was working on the problem mentioned in my last post, came up with what should be a better solution. He uses a Mac, and wrote a shell script which employs curl to make the updates via the router's HTTP interface. The size fo the script is less than 1K.

We may need to use a Mac rather than a PC to run the script, but we can scrounge one up.

Automating Internet Explorer

Yesterday afternoon I was asked to come up with a way to automatically reconfigure an option in the SMC cable modem/router boxes we adopted last year for our commercial customers. While there is a minimal command line interface, the option that we need to set is only available through the HTTP interface.

Did I mention that we're now up to about 40,000 customers?

I tried using Keytext but couldn't get it to do what I needed. I then tried Clickymouse and so far, I am able to get it to reconfigure a router pretty quickly. Once I have the router's login page loaded, the macro logs in, goes through and sets the needed option, then applies it and logs out.

However, when I try to automate pasting a router's IP address into Internet Explorer, the macro blows up. (I'm using IE because I know that the SMC was developed with it in mind. It probably works OK with Mozilla but I don't want to add something else to possibly troubleshoot at this time.)

So at this point I have a way to speed up the reconfiguration of a boatload of deployed routers, but it's still going to require babysitting to feed in the boxes' IPs and deal with any errors.

A coworker suggested using a Perl script to parse the HTTP outputs and input the required config changes, and I suppose it's possible. For example, there are Perl scripts that will allow one to use Yahoo! Mails's HTTP interface via a POP3 client. The only problem is that I don't know Perl.

The really annoying things about this all-of-a-sudden high priority project are that the config change that we're making is something that's been known about for a few years, and the next version of the firmware that will be loaded onto the boxes will allow for this config change to be made easily via SNMP.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

How fast does God drive?

216Km/hour (~134 MPH), apparently.

French cops busted Eric Clapton at that speed in his porsche 911 Turbo.

Slowhand .... lead foot.

("God" in the title of this post is a reference to graffiti which appeared in London subways in the 60s -- "Clapton is God.")

More Gmail invites

I have 5 Gmail invites available on a first-come first-serve basis.

If you want one, send an email to davemarkowitz at

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

New member of The Shooters' Bar from RI

David D'Augstino of Rhode Island is now listed in my list of pro-RKBA attorneys, The Shooters' Bar(SM).

A reader needs some Windows networking help

The following came in yesterday from Joe in NJ:

Dear Dave,

I am a fan of your blog and your site for going on 3 years (when I discovered DayNotes).

I'm an IT manager in a school district. I normally can work out my own problems, but the following has me confused...I am looking for the simplest way of doing the following

I want to allow specific user accounts access to specific machines. We are taking about 4 user accounts and 100 machines that I want them to access. Conversely I want my other 1200 user accounts to be able to login into any machine. However I want to be sure that the 4 user accounts are only able to login to those specific 100 machines. Currently everyone can login everywhere. What is the most simple way of doing this? Windows 2000 domain controller, the 100 machines in question are Win 98 and 2000. The rest of the machines are Win 2000.

If you have any thoughts on this I would appreciate it. All the advice I got so far involves complex script writing.

Joe, thanks for your kind feedback.

I am hopeful that one of my readers has an answer for Joe. I've not done Windows system administration on that scale, so I really don't know. If you're reading this and wouldn't mind sharing some Windows networking savvy, how about submitting a reply comment to this post?

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

My favorite inexpensive handgun

Every so often I'm asked to recommend an inexpensive handgun. I invariably suggest the Makarov, or Pistol M, as it's designated in Russia. It's a simple, reliable, and surprisingly accurate design, and was the standard sidearm of the USSR from around 1950 until the Soviet Union's collapse. The Russians are now replacing the Mak with a newer design, chambered for 9x19, which is more powerful. However, the 9x18 Makarov is still a decent round for self defense, being a bit more powerful than .380 ACP.

My Bulgarian-made Mak is utterly reliable. I've put about 450 - 500 rounds through it. The only malfunction was a single failure of the slide to lock back on an empty magazine. It is the single most reliable semiautomatic pistol I've ever owned, and that includes two Browning High Powers, a CZ-85, a Springfield M1911-A1, and a Browning Buck Mark. Curiously enough, the Mak was also the least expensive. My dad has had similar experiences. I paid $130 for it several years ago, new in the box.

My testing of the Makarov pales in comparison to that described in this thread on Glock Talk. All I can say is, "Wow!"

Think your job sucks?

Then check out BBC-4's "The Worst Jobs in History."

Monday, October 11, 2004

Bulk email polcies

One of the things we've been trying to nail down with our outsourced email provider is their policy WRT to bulk email. This afternoon, one of our marketing managers working the issue asked me if during the course of my research, I came across such policies.

Most providers' email policies bar sending out unsolicited email, although other than that they don't go into a ton of detail. Verio actually has a pretty good, detailed policy. In my reply, I mentioned Verio and added the following as key points:

(a) That there must be a pre-existing commercial relationship between sender and recipient.

(b) Lists with over 50 recipients should be handled using a mailing list manager like Majordomo or ezmlm. The big problem with using a regular mail client to send bulk emails is that quite often all the recipients get listed in the "To" field, which facilitates address harvesting by viruses. This is a MAJOR problem.

(c) Message size on bulk emails should be no more than 10 megs each, preferably much less. Sending out big file attachments to multiple recipients is a huge waste of bandwidth. The better course of action would be to send out a link that the recipient can click on to download it if desired. If a customer REALLY needs to send out massive attachments, or to very large distribution lists, he should be running his own SMTP server

Dell laptop power adapter recall expanding

According to this article at, Dell is expanding its recall of some laptop power supplies. You can find out if your power supply is affected here.

I just ordered a new PS for my Slacktop.

Saturday, October 09, 2004


If you're running Linux or BSD on a low end machine you may not want to deal with the overhead of a full-blown desktop environment like KDE or GNOME. KDE is even starting to feel sluggish to me on Gondor, my P3/733, after getting used to how responsive my work Dell P4/1.4 Gig laptop running XP is. So, this morning I decided to try out a couple alternative window managers on Gondor.

I've mentioned my use of Fluxbox, which is very lightweight and suited for olde hardware like my P2/366 laptop. I don't have Fluxbox installed on Gondor and didn't feel like downloading it. I do have FVWM2 installed, and briefly gave that a try. It's lightweight but SUSE's default setup is fugly. I'm a bit tired today after being up in the middle of the night with Amanda, so I didn't feel like dinking around trying to make it look decent. Perhaps another time.

Another fairly lightweight (although not nearly as so as Fluxbox) desktop is Windowmaker. I already had it installed and it's one I've used before.

Windowmaker is a descendent of Afterstep, which was intended to be a clone of the NeXT GUI. AAMOF, Afterstep was the first Linux GUI I used, back when I bought Rivendell in May 1998. Both Afterstep and Windowmaker are very easy on the eyes. In the words of its developers:

Window Maker is an X11 window manager originally designed to provide integration support for the GNUstep Desktop Environment. In every way possible, it reproduces the elegant look and feel of the NEXTSTEP[tm] user interface. It is fast, feature rich, easy to configure, and easy to use. It is also free software, with contributions being made by programmers from around the world.
Definitely check it out if you're running Linux or BSD on an older machine.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Running X on MS Windows

I want the ability to run X applications using my XP laptop. To do so, I can either get a commercial X server for Win32, such as Hummingbird Exceed or Winaxe, or go the open source route. I'm going to try the latter. I'm currently installing Cygwin on my company Dell Latitude, taking advantage of the fat pipe I have at work.

Aside from giving me some of Linux's functionality on XP, I'm looking to use the Cygwin X server to connect to Gondor when I'm at home, allowing me to export its display to the laptop so that I can run apps on Gondor but have their display sent to the laptop's screen.

I could use VNC -- which is based on X -- to run apps on Gondor with their displays on the laptop, but I'm hoping that the Cygwin X server will give me better performance.

Another way this would be handy if it works well on the company laptop, is to install Cygwin on my personal Compaq, which I use in my side work. I could use a X server when going to one client's site, who's running a SUSE email server. I currently do all my admin for that box -- whether I'm onsite or at home -- using SSH and occasionally webmin. I do have X on the box though, and for some purposes having X could be handy.

"Man tax" proposed in Sweden

When feminists get out of hand:

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - A group of Swedish parliamentarians proposed levying a "man tax" to cover the social cost of violence against women.

"It must be obvious to all of us that society has a huge problem with male violence against women and that has a cost," Left Party deputy Gudrun Schyman told Swedish radio on Monday.


Thursday, October 07, 2004

The Pond

An old farmer in Kansas had owned a large farm for several years. He had a pond in the back, fixed up nicely with picnic tables, horseshoe courts and some apple and peach trees. The pond was properly shaped and had been planned for swimming.

One evening the old farmer decided to go down to the pond to look things over, as he hadn't been there for quite awhile. He grabbed a 5 gallon bucket to bring back some fruit from the trees. As he neared the pond he heard voices shouting and laughing with glee. As he came closer he saw it was a group of young women skinny dipping in his pond.

He made the women aware of his presence and they all fled to the deep end of the pond. One of the women shouted to him, "We're not getting out until you leave!"

The old man frowned and said, "I didn't come down here to watch you ladies swim naked
or make you get out of the pond naked." Holding up the bucket he said, "I'm here to feed the alligator."

Moral: old age and cunning will triumph over youth and enthusiasm every time!

Hacking the Fluxbox menu

As I've previously mentioned, my old Dell Latitude is running Slackware 10 setup to use the very lightweight Fluxbox window manager. I chose Fluxbox because it requires fewer system resources than KDE, Gnome, or even Afterstep. It therefore allows me to make the most of this old hardware.

There are a couple of ways to launch apps after you're in Slackware's Fluxbox setup. The first is to right-click on the desktop, which brings up a menu, while the second is to start the app from a terminal (although you start your first terminal from the menu). I wanted to add a couple of items to the menu so that I didn't have to type in a command to start them any time I wanted them to run. This is pretty easy.

My Fluxbox config file is /home/dave/.fluxbox/menu. It's a plain text file which starts off like:

[begin] (Fluxbox-0.1.14)
[exec] (rxvt) {rxvt}
[exec] (mozilla) {mozilla}

The first line is the beginning section of the menu (duh). The lines starting with "[exec]" are entries in that section for executable programs. The next item, in parentheses, is the text that appears in the menu. The final item, in brackets, is the command that will be run when you click on it. So, to add an entry for the gkrellm system monitor, I added:

[exec] (gkrellm) {gkrellm}

To add an app installed to a location not in my PATH, you'll need the full path to the executable, like this:

[exec] (thunderbird) {/opt/thunderbird/thunderbird}

One nice thing is that when you edit the "menu" file, changes take effect as soon as you save it. You don't need to restart X and have Fluxbox re-read the file.

Good vendor experience for a change

This morning I had a good vendor experience for a change. It was a conference call/web demo with a large wholesale hosting company. Their in-house tool used for the admin interface and customer-facing interface really impressed the heck out of me. On top of that, their webmail app blew me away. Its got a very nice look and feel that doesn't resember other webmail interfaces I've seen. It looks like you're viewing a regular mail client from within a browser. I doubt I'd want to use it over dialup, but on a nice fast cable modem connection I bet it would rock. We're not looking at this company so much for email hosting as for web hosting, but this offering is too good to ignore, IMO.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Different kids

It's amazing how different kids, even siblings, can be. Amanda is three months old today (and Alexandra is 22 months old). I was watching Judith play with Amanda tonight and noticed how much more aware she is of her surroundings than Alexandra was at her age. She wants to be involved with the goings on around her, in contrast with Alexandra, who to this day is very content to amuse herself.

It's going to be really interesting to see how they develop over the next several years.

SUSE 9.2 Professional Announced

I guess I won't be upgrading Gondor to SUSE 9.1 after all. Novell announced today that 9.2 will be shipping next month. Highlights include:

  • KDE 3.3 and GNOME 2.6 graphical desktop environments for enhanced usability and desktop comfort.
  • 1.1.3, a complete Word-, Excel- and PowerPoint-compatible office suite.
  • Novell® Evolution™ 2.0, the newest community edition of the popular Linux e-mail and personal information client, with integrated support for Microsoft* Exchange 2000/2003 connectivity, compatibility with Novell GroupWise® using IMAP, plus support for a broad set of standard e-mail
  • GIMP 2, a comprehensive image processing and graphics creation tool.
  • Inkscape, a new vector graphics application that outperforms all other Linux alternatives.
  • Nvu, a Web authoring system that combines Web file management and easy-to-use WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) Web-page editing.
  • A selection of commercial software, including full versions of the text processing application TextMaker and spreadsheet application PlanMaker from SoftMaker, full-version backup software sesam from SEP, as well as a demo version of MainConcept's video editing software MainActor 5.
Sounds pretty sweet.

Back in Mozilla for now

I'm back in Mozilla for now. I just feel more comfortable with it, aside from the compatiblity issues.

One thing I had to do was fix the link to Brian Bilbrey's mirror of Tom Syroids Daynotes in the last post. Whne logged into Blogger in Opera, the URL button is missing, so I couldn't add the link.

I'll keep Opera installed, though, since it's useful for large downloads because it will automatically resume them if interrupted.

Tom Syroid's Insights webmeister Brian Bilbrey has put up a mirror of Tom Syroid's "Insights at Syroid Manor," up through the time Tom stopped posting last year. There is a lot of good info, especially WRT to Linux, to be gleaned from Tom's musings.

Check 'em out at

Trying Opera again

Every so often I give Opera another try as a browser. I'm always attracted to how smokin' fast it is, but it always seems to be incompatible with some of the sites that I access.

For example, the current stable version of Opera -- 7.54 -- is not compatible with Gmail. Gmail isn't a mission-critical app for me, but I do check it a few times each day to read the email lists I subscribe to using that address.

Now, I'm trying out Blogger and before I hit "Publish Post" I'm going to make sure I copy this post to my clipboard, because several of the buttons in Blogger's online editor are missing. I'll post this using Mozilla if blogger completely barfs on Opera.

Mozilla and Firefox may be less "standards complian" than Opera, but they are more compatible with a wider variety of Web pages.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Didja ever notice...

... that when you hear about someone's property being defaced becuase it's bearing a political sticker or sign, that it's virtually always a Republican getting vandalized? For example:

An unknown suspect fired several shots into the Bearden office of the Bush/Cheney re-election campaign Tuesday morning.

From WBIR-TV, Knoxville, TN.

I guess the reason all those Dems favor gun control is because they are psychologically projecting their own lack of self control on the rest of society.

Strange behavior from Firefox

It took me several tries to get the previous post up, and I had to switch to Mozilla from Firefox to do so. Blogger seems to be having problems with Firefox 0.91 on my Slackware box (yes, I know I need to upgrade). It seems to work fine with Mozilla 1.7, though.

Very strange.

Crummy network connection

My primary network Internet connection today is running like crap. Web surfing is slow and GAIM repeatedly drops offline. Luckily, I have a second network to which I can connect.

I generally leave my Slackware laptop on the secondary connection. Aside from redundancy, the secondary doesn't run through a content filter. This is good if I need to look something up which I'd just assume not be filtered.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Smoking moms may increase the incidence of colic

Smoking Moms May Boost Tots' Risk of Colic


CHICAGO (AP) - Mothers who smoke during or after pregnancy increase their babies' risk of developing colic, those vexing, inconsolable crying spells that affect up to 20 percent of U.S. babies in their first few months of life, researchers say.

The culprit, based on studies in adults, is likely nicotine, which increases blood levels of a gut protein involved in digestion, said Brown University epidemiologist Edmond Shenassa. That may result in painful cramping that makes babies cry, he said.

Shenassa and Harvard University researcher Mary-Jean Brown reviewed several studies, including six that involved more than 12,000 babies.

The data suggest that compared with nonsmokers, mothers who smoke during pregnancy face about double the risk of having infants with colic, Shenassa said.

Full story here.

As if smoking around kids or while pregnant isn't bad enough. And having recently expeirenced a colicky baby, I can say that anything that reduces the incidence of colic is a good thing.

Time to geek out

I'm in the mood for a geek fix. I haven't used the iMac that I was playing around with over the summer in awhile, and with it taking up desk space, my old Dell running Slackware 10 has been sitting moribund in my cabinet. So, this afternoon I put the iMac back in our storage closet and broke out the Dell.

The first thing I did was to login as root and run "swaret --upgrade -a" to automatically upgrade everything that needed it. That took only a few minutes, after which I logged out, fired up X, called up rxvt, and launched Firefox. This machine is old, wih a P2/366 and 128 megs of RAM, but the combination of Slackware and the Fluxbox window manager makes it usable. Doubling the RAM would give me a noticeable performance boost, but I'm reluctant to sink any money into it at this point.

It's nice to have a Linux box back up and running on my desk.

From my alma mater

Via Linux Today, I found this article at The Triangle, the student newspaper of Drexel University, my alma mater. Versatility of Linux Distributions Allow Choice. It's a fairly basic overview of several distros.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Bush, Kerry, and the Jewish Vote

Here's some food for thought:

Bush, Kerry, and the Jewish vote

By Jeff Jacoby, Globe Columnist | September 28, 2004

WHEN they go to the polls in November, which of the two major parties will American Jews support? Consider:

At Party A's national convention, a prime speaking slot went to an infamous racial inciter, one with an ugly history of Jew-baiting. At Party B's convention, a leading speaker recalled with empathy the many pre-9/11 victims of terrorism, such as Leon Klinghoffer, whom the killers ''marked ... for murder solely because he was Jewish.''

Party A's presidential nominee said nothing about Israel in his convention acceptance speech. Party B's nominee, on the other hand, made a point of referring to ''our good friend Israel'' - and his campaign later distributed that portion of his remarks to its national e-mail list.

Increasingly, Party A is the political home of those who demonize Jews, such as the South Carolina senator who claimed that the war in Iraq was launched to ''take the Jewish vote.'' Conversely, Party B has driven out the anti-Semites in its midst, and is now where the most ardent philo-Semites in American politics are concentrated.

So which party will American Jews vote for in November?
For the rest of the story, click here.

And, just for the record, there is no amount of money you could pay me to vote for the candidate from Party A.

A productive weekend

This was a productive, if not particularly restful weekend.

Yesterday morning I drove down to Hockessin, Delaware to do a site survey at a small law firm which needs a network installed so that they can share files among three users, and also use a cable modem. They currently use dial up access from Earthlink and AOL, which has become a major impediment to receiving large files. Based on their projected type of usage and the small size, I'm going to put in a proposal to install an 802.11g wireless LAN, which I'll lock down pretty tightly.

One thing I did so that I could see if any special configuration will be needed was to fire up my laptop with a Netgear 802.11g NIC in it, and see if I could detect any WLANs. I picked up 5 or 6, one of which was a wide open Linksys WAP which had been taken out of the box and plugged in. I didn't attempt to loging to the WAP, but the SSID was the default and I was able to get an IP, since WEP was off. I gave the secretary at the law office a few of my business cards to pass out. :-)

Today along with a colleague and a couple guys we paid per diem, I was at one of my client's to install LAN and phone cabling in their new office. We got all the cabling run -- 37 drops -- and partially punched down. My partner will rturn during the week to finish punching down all the phone and LAN jacks, and certify all the runs with a Fluke tester. My client will be moving in on October 30th, at which time I'll install three new Netgear 10/100 switches and a new UPS, plus general hand holding during the move.

This job is going a long way to paying for the new gutters and soffets I had to get for the house last month.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Posion ivy finally getting better

I seem to be getting over the poison ivy. It's been a long two weeks dealing with it. I highly recommend not getting it yourself. I should probably put on a MOPP suit and go around my yard and hose down anything that looks like the damn vine with herbicide.

On a side note, I emailed my friends earlier this week about PI, and one of them wrote back to me to let me know that not only is he not allergic to the stuff, he actually eats a bit of it each year to annoy his wife, who's apparently hyper sensitive to it. Nick, you suck.

House passes bill to repeal DC handgun ban

Bill Would Restore D.C. Rights to Handguns

By JIM ABRAMS Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Residents of the nation's capital would be able to own handguns and other firearms under a House-passed bill acclaimed by its supporters as a victory for Second Amendment rights but deplored by District of Columbia officials concerned about increased violence.

The 250-171 vote to end a 28-year ban on handgun ownership was the second victory this month for advocates of gun rights, following the decision of congressional leaders not to extend a decade-long ban on assault weapons.

Unfortunately, the Senate probably won't do anything with the bill this session. But it's a start on restoring the Second Amendment rights of DC's citizens. (See full story here.)